Venus hoping for a Grand Slam?
Venus has grand plan
By PAUL MALONE
WIMBLEDON champion Venus Williams says she is primed to win her first Australian Open title and boldly entertains the idea of a Grand Slam in the year ahead.<br />Williams has not reached an Australian Open final in three attempts. But she says she is ready to make Melbourne Park her own after scaling back college and sponsorship demands recently to bolster her chances.
Last year she took a 6-1 6-1 towelling from Martina Hingis in a Melbourne Park semi-final.
"I was all over the place last time. I went too hard because I didn't have time to practise and injured myself. I was just out of shape," Williams said yesterday.
She starts her Open campaign in the Australian Women's Hardcourt championships at Royal Pines resort on the Gold Coast today after a first-round bye.
"This year has been different. I did everything before it was time to start practising a couple of weeks ago and at least have given myself a running chance," Williams said.
"I've paid my dues. I've learned my lessons. It's my turn this time.
"The times I have thought that, I can win it."
Where even dominant players like Steffi Graf, Monica Seles, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras were always careful to talk down their chances of a calendar-year sweep of the four majors, the Wimbledon and US Open champion is frank about her Grand Slam ambitions next year.
"I'd like to win three or four this year. Four is greedy, huh? But it could happen," she said.
Williams practised twice yesterday with a taped right wrist, the same injury that caused her to withdraw from the WTA Championships.
She has not played since she beat younger sister Serena in their historic US Open final almost three months ago.
"I couldn't wait to leave home. After being unemployed for so long, I need to get back on the job," she said. "The wrist is doing a lot better. Once I got over being worried about getting it worse, I was all right."
Ranked No, 3 in the world despite winning the Wimbledon-US Open double the past two years, Williams backed changes to the Women's Tennis Association rankings to better reward performances at the four majors and the next tier of tour events.
Lindsay Davenport acknowledges Williams was the best player this year and that she had taken the year-end No.1 ranking, despite failing to make a grand slam final, because she played five tournaments more than Williams.
"The changes are good. I think it's 740 points for the winner (instead of 520). Whatever system it is, you have to play the system and I have't done that," she said.
"It's not their fault I'm not No.1."
Williams intends to play more tournaments in the first half of the new year.
"I don't put a lot of pressure on myself to be No.1. It's a pressure to win titles," she said.
"But at some point, I would have to, I hope, reach the top."
The Williams sisters like to play at the same tournaments sparingly and Venus said she had pulled rank over her younger sister, who had wanted to play at the Gold Coast.
"Maybe she'll be here next year," she said.
"For me, Sydney's a little too much before the Australian Open. I will have a week off next week and hope I will be peaking."
AUSTRALIAN wildcards crashed out of the women's hardcourt title yesterday.
Christina Wheeler, 19, fell 6-4 6-4 to seventh-ranked Daja Bedanova from the Czech Republic, while Samantha Stosur lost 6-2 6-0 in 46 minutes to Russian Anastasia Myskina.
World No.11 and tournament third seed Sandrine Testud was the only major name to tumble on the opening day, going down to Tina Pisnik, 19, 6-4 7-5 at the Royal Pines resort.